Saint Catherine of Siena’s Severed Head in Siena, Italy

A dismembered holy head stares out from her beautiful reliquary at the St. Dominic Basilica. Set in an ornate reliquary in the Basilica San Domenico in Siena is the dismembered, mummified head of the revered Saint Catherine of Siena ( 1347-1380). Her right thumb also resides in a smaller reliquary not far from her head. At the ripe old age of 7, Catherine had her 1st of many visions, with Jesus on a throne, surrounded by Saints. As a teenager, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship.

At age 28 Catherine was said to have received the stigmata, when five red rays shot out of the crucifix she was praying to and pierced her hands, feet and heart. She refused to eat or drink, save for the blessed sacrament. Her miracles were not limited to the stigmata and visions. Catherine was scene levitating during prayer, and a priest once said that he saw the Holy Communion fly from his hand straight into Catherine’s mouth like a miraculous frisbee.

The beloved Catherine died at the age of 33, and was canonized over a century later. She died while in Rome, but her hometown,  Siena, wanted to have her body. When they realized they would not be able to smuggle the whole body past the guards in Rome, they only took her head hidden in a paper bag. The thieves prayed to Catherine to protect, and when the guards looked in the bag, they saw not the weathered head of the saint, but hundreds of rose petals. When they returned to Siena, the head had remateralized, Saint Catherine’s final miracle. Her head was placed in a splendid reliquary, where it remains today, near her disembodied thumb, in the Church of San Dominica. The rest of Saint Catherine’s body remains in Rome, and her foot is said to be in a reliquary in Venice, Italy 🇮🇹 

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